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EU Wants Parliament to Prioritize Sexual Offences, National Legal Aid Bills

Ambassador Merrifield said that the EU delegation would like to have further meetings with parliament on a section of Bills that they have been following closely.
European Union Ambassadors meet with Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah. Photo by Olive Nakatudde

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The European Union (EU) delegation in Uganda has asked the Speaker of Parliament to prioritize the sexual offences bill and other key bills in the 11th Parliament. 

Led by the EU Acting Ambassador, Anna Merrifield, the ambassadors paid a courtesy visit to Speaker Jacob Oulanyah on Wednesday. They included the Swedish Ambassador, Maria Håkansson, Belgium Ambassador Rudi Veestraeten, the Ambassador of Ireland Kevin Colgan and the Deputy Ambassador of Denmark Henrik Jespersen.

Merrifield said that the EU delegation would like to have further meetings with parliament on a section of Bills that they have been following closely. The Bills are the Sexual Offences Bill, National Legal Aid Bill, Witness Protection Bill and others.  

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The Sexual Offences Bill, 2019 was recently returned to Parliament by President Yoweri Museveni for reconsideration.  

Tabled by the former Kumi Woman MP, Monica Amoding and approved by the 10th parliament in May this year, the Bill seeks to criminalize a range of practices such as indecent utterances, gestures and touches to the sexual organs of another person. It stipulates that a person who performs a sexual act with another person without their consent is liable on conviction, to imprisonment for life.

Museveni says that the draft Bill has a collection of provisions that are already provided for in other pieces of legislation. 

The National Legal Aid Bill, 2019 was tabled by former Gulu Municipality MP, Lyandro Komakech as the 10th Parliament concluded its business in May and it is yet to be processed by the House. It seeks to facilitate access to legal representation for indigent and vulnerable persons among others. 

On the other hand, The Witness Protection Bill., drafted in 2015 is yet to be tabled in parliament. It provides for the protection and safety of witnesses in court proceedings and the facilitation of all persons with information relating to proceedings of an investigation, trial, inquiry or procedure. It also provides for the establishment of a Witness Protection Agency.

Oulanyah said that he has approved a motion for the introduction of the National Legal Aid Bill and that this would be tabled on Thursday. He said that this and other Bills in the interest of the EU directly relate to the ordinary people and how they should be helped.

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He appealed to the EU delegation not to hesitate to discuss any specific issue of their interest.

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Oulanyah also commended the EU commitment on the issue of environment and climate change saying that this forms one of the areas of priority for the 11th Parliament.

“Climate Change is real and we want that to be part of what we as parliamentarians would focus on. The easiest we can do at the moment is to mobilize people to plant trees…every single day, I receive members who have issues of disaster-related nature, landslides, floods, too much rain, drought,” he said in part.

He however said that there is no clear plan for how to handle these disasters and that parliament needs to focus on issues that grossly affect the people so that solutions are provided.

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Oulanyah also noted that the fight against corruption remains Parliament’s priority saying that the institution has in the recent past been accused of corruption tendencies and that they are to take drastic actions in the nearby future.  

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